Friday, July 17, 2009


My 9x great grandfather John Hoyt. Sr. was one of the first settlers of Salisbury, Essex Co.,
Mssachusetts and I was researching what if any action he saw in the Indian wars. It's
become a habit now to also check the Essex Court records for any ancestors who might
have appeared in relation to some case or another and the other night I found this:

"Court Held At Hampton, Oct. 9, 1677.
Jury of trials: John Severans, foreman, Tho. Mudgett, John Hoyt, jr., Tho. Barnard, John Samborn, Godfrey Deareborne, John Clifford, sr., Morris Hobbs, sr., Peter Foulsham, Moses Levitt, Daniell Lad, jr. and Tho. Hartshorne.

Grand jury: William White, foreman, Willi. Osgood, sr., Samll. Felloes, sr., Joseph French,
sr., Willi. Barnes, John Hoyt, sr., Humphrey Wilson, Robert Page, Willi. Fuller, Nathl. Batcheller, Nathll. Weare and Tho. Whittier.

-Records and Files of the Quarterly Courts of Essex County, Massachusetts Volume VI
Salem Ma. The Essex Institute, 1917 (page 339)

So John Hoyt and his son(also my ancestor) John Hoyt Jr. were jurors when the name of
a member of their own family was called:

"Dorothie Hoyt, called into court upon her presentment for putting on man's apparel, made default, she having gone out of the county. Her father, John Hoyt, appeared and owned the
fact, manifesting Dorothie's repentance, and desiring to fall under the penal part of the
sentence. It was ordered that she be apprehended as soon as she returned, and be severely whipped unless her father forthwith pay a fine of 40s. in corn or money.

Warrant, dated Aug. 20, 1677, and summons to witnesses, Amos Singletary, Joseph
and Mary Sargent, signed by Tho. Bradbury, for the court, and served by Tho. Sargent, constable of Amesbury." (p341-342).

This fascinated me. Dorothy had shocked our Puritan forebears by wearing men's
clothes! Had she traded her dress for a man's trousers and shirt because they were more
practical for some chore? Or was it simply a prank that went badly astray and was
observed by three witnesses?

Why had she left the county? Did she flee, or was she perhaps sent away because the
family feared she might say or do something in court to add to their shame?

Where did she go? I haven't found any other record of her as yet, so perhaps she never returned.

Did John Hoyt Sr. pay the fine?

I guess we'll never know. The part of me that is a historian tells me that it couldn't have
ended well for Dorothy Hoyt. If she left her family for good, life for her would have been
quite hard, and she would have found the same reaction everywhere if she'd continued her "presentiment" for men' clothes. And if perhaps her family sent her off to live with some relatives, it's likely every effort would have been made to prevent her from any further
outburst of unseemly behavior.

But my imagination hopes that Dorothy Hoyt beat the odds and found happiness
somewhere as well as comfortable boots to go along with her shirt and trousers!


Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

I'm always floored when I see these very old court cases. It turns the notion that this country has always been about personal freedom on it's head. I'm betting Dorothy returned to her dresses.

My Hoyt/Haight line is Fairfield, CT to Brooklyn, NY.

Emma said...

Howdy! This is 10 years later, so I'm not sure if you will see this, but I'm a college student writing a paper about gender in colonial New England, and I was not able to find a court record of the Dorothy Hoyt case until I found this blog! So, thanks!

Bill West said...

I'm glad I helped! I was surprised when I discovered Dorothy's story. Good luck with your paper!